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U.K, U.S. Proposal Sets March 17 Deadline for Iraqi Compliance

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw introduced the revised resolution during a meeting of the Security Council.

“I am asking the secretariat to circulate an amendment we are tabling [introducing] which will specify a further period beyond the adoption of a resolution for Iraq to take the final opportunity to disarm and to bring themselves into compliance,” Straw told the ambassadors and ministers gathered to hear a report from weapons inspectors.

The text of the new amendment does not authorize military action, but does place a deadline for Iraqi compliance.

“Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 unless on or before March 17, 2003, the Council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation with its disarmament obligations,” the text of the amendment read.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France, a permanent member of the council with the power to veto a resolution, denounced the new proposal.

“We won’t accept the new resolution,” De Villepin said. “We cannot accept any ultimatum.”

De Villepin said the thinking of the British and American diplomats was based in a “logic of war and this is a logic we do not accept.”

Straw countered that the second resolution did not represent a desire for war, but instead signaled a commitment by the international community to disarm Iraq.

“[T]he council must send Iraq the clear message that we will resolve this crisis on the United Nations’ terms, the terms which the council established four months ago, when we unanimously adopted Resolution 1441,” Straw said.

De Villepin stressed he thought a deadline of March 17 was unreasonable, pointing to U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix’s statement that full disarmament could take months.

Straw countered that although verification would take time, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could actively comply much more quickly.

“It may take time to fabricate further falsehoods, but the truth takes only seconds to tell,” Straw said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed the British position.

“It does not take a long time to comply. Just get on with it,” Powell told after the meeting.

During his speech to the council, Powell also used a 167-page report on programs Iraq must still confirm they no longer have as proof of its unwillingness to comply.

“If Iraq were genuinely committed to disarmament, Dr. Blix’s document would not be 167 pages of issues and questions, it would be thousands upon thousands of pages of answers about anthrax, about VX, about sarin, about unmanned aerial vehicles,” Powell told the council. “It would set out in detail all of Iraq’s prohibited programs. Then, and only then, could the inspectors really do the credible job they need to do of verification, destruction and monitoring.”

Diplomatic sources told Reuters and the Associated Press that the United States and Britain would ask the council to vote early next week on the amended resolution.

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